This letter reflects the opinions of Phil Bailey, former College of Science and Mathematics dean and current director of a College of Science and Mathematics undergraduate research program. Bailey retired from his dean position at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.

This is my 49th year at Cal Poly. I’ve seen Cal Poly grow from 10,000 students to over 20,000 while maintaining and treasuring its focus on student learning and development, our polytechnic emphasis and the Learn by Doing philosophy. During this time, Cal Poly has become a university of national distinction with the value of a Cal Poly diploma ever increasing.

However, despite continuing university-wide efforts to more fully serve low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students, we have been frustrated in our sincere desire to increase diversity and enroll a student body more representative of California demographics.

We are now in a stage of our history where that can change!

The university is considering a proposed initiative that would offer grants to high-achieving, low-income California students, which would result in more first-generation and underrepresented students having the opportunity to attend Cal Poly and graduate. More than 95 percent of Cal Poly students have permanent residence 100 miles or more from campus. The need to relocate, the additional cost of attending a polytechnic university and insufficient state and federal financial aid are often insurmountable barriers to low-income students.

The initiative being proposed, the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant and Fee, is simple at its core.  Because there is incredible demand for admission to Cal Poly, the university is able to charge closer to market rate for out-of-state students while still costing less than any of the University of California (UC) campuses (the average UC non-resident tuition currently is $15,000 greater than Cal Poly’s). Due to California State University (CSU) fee structures, we are pricing out low-income California families while providing a bargain to out-of-state students who can choose to attend college in their own states.

However, given the high demand for attendance, Cal Poly can increase the cost to out-of-state students ($2,010 increase per year capping at $8,040 in 2021) without impacting the number attending the university, which would remain at its current rate of 15 percent of the student body.  No currently enrolled out-of-state students will be charged the higher rate, which would start with the incoming 2018 class if the initiative is approved.

The revenue generated by charging closer to market rate for out-of-state students will fund grants that will be offered to highly qualified low-income California students. The unfortunate reality is that lower-income households on average have a higher percentage of first-generation students, as well as racial and ethnic minorities. By providing much needed financial assistance to these well-qualified California students they will be able to attend Cal Poly, one of the nation’s premiere polytechnic institutions, and Cal Poly can increase the diversity of its student population and improve the educational environment for all students.

We value our out-of-state students as members of the Cal Poly family. Coming from all over the country and abroad, they too provide an added dimension of diversity and national recognition. With the balanced approach of the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant and Fee, we have the opportunity to maintain the current proportion of out-of-state students while providing essential support for highly-qualified, low-income California students and increasing diversity on campus so it more closely reflects that of the state of California.

This initiative is vitally important to both prospective and current students as intercultural experiences are necessary to fully prepare students for the world in which they will live and work.  Not only are these experiences necessary for life, but employers are increasingly demanding these experiences and well-rounded perspectives among the graduates they recruit and employ.

We can do this now!  Implementing the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant and Fee initiative is the right thing to do and will benefit future generations of Cal Poly students and bring new perspectives to the San Luis Obispo area.

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